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No New Zealand games in 2016 as Saints' Kiwi push teeters on the brink

Shane Savage of the Saints in action during the 2015 AFL Round 04 ANZAC Day match between the St Kilda Saints and the Carlton Blues at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand on April 25, 2015. (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Kiwi-born Saint Shane Savage in action during the game in Wellington last year
We are in positive discussions about growing the game of AFL in New Zealand and capitalising upon the growing support for AFL in Auckland in particular
St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis

ST KILDA will not host a match in New Zealand in 2016 after discussions with the Christchurch City Council fell through.

The Saints have been pioneers across the Tasman, hosting premiership matches in Wellington for the past three years but failing to capture the imagination of locals.

An initial three-year contract with the Wellington City Council was not renewed, prompting the Saints to look elsewhere to continue their push into New Zealand.

St Kilda targets Christchurch

But it will be confirmed in the AFL's fixture announcement on Thursday that the club will not host a match in New Zealand in 2016, temporarily halting the experiment.

"Both parties have decided to not hold a game next year in Christchurch," a spokesperson from the Christchurch City Council told AFL.com.au.  

"There have been no further discussion since the decision was made."

The Saints remain committed to their New Zealand involvement and hope to eventually play matches in Auckland once the city has a venue capable of hosting matches. 

The AFL is also committed to working into the New Zealand market and has so far partnered with the Saints to achieve this.

"Strategically, we remain committed to growing the game in New Zealand and playing games there in the future and welcomed the AFL's support of our long-term plan," CEO Matt Finnis said in a statement to AFL.com.au.

"While we will not play a match in New Zealand next season, we are in positive discussions about growing the game of AFL in New Zealand and capitalising upon the growing support for AFL in Auckland in particular."

The AFL denied it was a setback for the approach into the New Zealand market, and said the League remained dedicated to the push into Auckland when its stadium is finished in either 2017 or 2018.

"It's an important market for us and an important market for St Kilda," AFL general manager broadcasting, scheduling and major projects Simon Lethlean said on Tuesday afternoon.

"We've got a great staff over there at AFL New Zealand, which is important to us, and the Saints are looking to transition hopefully to Auckland in a couple of years.

"Wellington has had a three-game series and has decided to concentrate on other events, and we're looking forward to hopefully basing (the new Auckland venue) as a home for St Kilda's matches.

"That's certainly their intention and we're keen to do that."

The Saints drew a crowd of 22,547 for their first match in Wellington, against the Sydney Swans in 2013.

But attendances have since dropped to 13,409 against the Brisbane Lions in 2014, and 12,125 for a showcase centenary of Anzac match against Carlton this year.

The Saints failed to win any of their three games in New Zealand.

Fewer Australians travelled to the country this year than in the initial match in 2013, reducing the tourism benefit for Wellington.

-with Jennifer Phelan